Tuesday, April 29, 2014

March 7, 1864 (Monday): Hood On Tactics

Pickett's Charge


Numbers 36.
Dalton, March 7, 1864.
I. The attention of division and brigade commanders is called to the evil results that may follow from their officers and men having wrong impressions in regard to being flanked by the enemy; much care should be taken to instruct them in this matter.
II. A division commander occupying the extreme flank of a line of battle should, if attacked on the extreme flank, change front of such portion of his line as may be necessary to repel it and promptly notify the corps commander, that assistance may be sent him. In like manner a brigade commander, if thus attacked, should change the front of one or more of his regiments, promptly notifying the division commander, that he may make the necessary dispositions and communicate the facts ot the corps commander.
III. The importance of holding all ground taken from the enemy cannot be overestimated, as to relinquish it invariably demoralizes not only the troops immediately engaged but all others cognizant of the fact, and hence troops should never retire from the field for any purpose whatever, even to replenish ammunition (much of which can be obtained form our own and the enemy's wounded and dead), without authority from the corps and division commanders; as to do so would be second only to withdrawing without having fired a shot.
IV. Firing on the enemy at long range should never be permitted, since its lack of effectiveness often gives encouragement instead of causing demoralization, as a well-directed fire at short range is certain to do. In receiving an attack the enemy should be held until it can be delivered with deadly effect, and, if practicable, should be followed by a determined charge, as it is all-important to break the enemy's line, not merely for the encouragement if gives our men but the demoralization and confusion that it forces upon him. Every officer and man should understand that in long-range fighting the Yankees are our equals, but at close quarters we are vastly superior to them. The history of the war abundantly proves that they have never repulsed a determined and well-sustained charge.
V. Another point to be observed in making an attack is that the troops when advancing in line of battle should not be moved at the double-quick or in any way be fatigued before engaging the enemy, that they may be in the best possible condition for pressing him and improving any advantages which may be gained.
     By command of Lieutenant-General Hood:

     Assistant Adjutant-General.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 32, Part 3, Page 593.

Hood's directives are an interesting exposition on Civil War infantry tactics.  He was no doubt correct that long distance firing produced little result, but his observation that "they (Union troops) have never repulsed a determined and well-sustained charge." is more than a bit ironic coming after Gettysburg.  Nevertheless, Hood was correct in devoting his attention to how to respond to a flanking movement.  The biggest danger was often not the movement itself, but the tendency of troops to fly rather than fight when flanked.  His remarks on holding all ground taken also well reflect the psychology of battle.  Hood, by reputation, was bold in combat and some would say overly so.  But these orders are interesting in that they reflect the importance of sustaining attacks once delivered.  


March 6, 1864 (Sunday): Lee Counsels Restraint

General Robert E. Lee

HEADQUARTERS, March 6, 1864.
Honorable JAMES A. SEDDON,
Secretary of War, Richmond:
    SIR: I have just received your letter of the 5th instant inclosing a slip from one of the Richmond journals, giving an account of the recent attack upon that city, and a copy of some papers found on the dead body of Colonel Dahlgren, disclosing the plan and purpose of the enterprise. I concur with you in thinking that a formal publication of these papers should be made under official authority, that our people and the world may know the character of the war our enemies wage against us, and the unchristian and atrocious acts they plot and perpetrate. But I cannot recommend the execution of the prisoners that have fallen into our hands. Assuming that the address and special orders of Colonel Dahlgren correctly state his designs and intentions, they were not executed, and I believe, even in a legal point of view, acts in addition to intentions are necessary to constitute crime. These papers can only be considered as evidence of his intentions. It does not appear how far his men were cognizant of them, or that his course was sanctioned by his Government. It is only known that his plans were frustrated by a merciful Providence, his forces scattered, and he killed. I do not think it right, therefore, to visit upon the captives the guilt of his intentions. I do not pretend to speak the sentiments of the army, which you seem to desire. I presume that the blood boils with indignation in the veins of every officer and man as they read the account of the barbarous and inhuman plot, and under the impulse of the moment many would counsel extreme measures. But I do not think that reason and reflection would justify such a course. I think it better to do right, even if we suffer in so doing, than to incur the reproach of our consciences and posterity. Nor do I think that under present circumstances policy dictates the execution of these men. It would produce retaliation. How many and better men have we in the enemy's hands than they have in ours? But this consideration should have no weight provided the course was in itself right. Yet history records instances where such considerations have prevented the execution of marauders and devastators of provinces.
   It may be pertinent to this subject to refer to the conduct of some of our men in the valley. I have hard that a party of Gilmor's battalion, after arresting the progress of a train of cars on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, took from the passengers their purses and watches. As far as I know no military object was accomplished after gaining possession of the cars, and the act appears to have been one of plunder. Such conduct is unauthorized and discreditable. Should any of that battalion be captured the enemy might claim to treat them as highway robbers. What would be our course? I have ordered an investigation of the matter and hope the report may be untrue.
    I am, with great respect, your obedient servant,

     R. E. LEE,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 33, Part 1, Page 649.

The records reveal considerable consternation at Richmond over the Dahlgren papers.  Publication to a wider audience was thought essential, but beyond that was the question of what to do with prisoners captured during the raid.  There was sentiment to execute them as criminals, considering the execution of Davis and his cabinet would have been outside the usages of war.  But Lee makes the case here that the role of the administration in the raid was unknown and the purposes may not have even been known to the men on the raid, only to Kilpatrick and/or Dahlgren.  Beyond that, he makes the interesting case of Confederate soldiers who stopped a train and took the purses and watches of Union passengers.  As their actions also were outside of those required to wage war, might they not also be subject to execution as highway robbers?  The Dahlgren affair was complex and there were no easy answers to the questions it raised.

March 5, 1864 (Saturday): Longstreet and Johnston Confer

Richmond Customs House-Site of the Confederate War Department

March 5, 1864.
General J. E. JOHNSTON,
Dalton, Ga.:
   MY DEAR GENERAL: I have just finished an official letter setting forth the projected campaign of the President and General Bragg.* It does not look very inviting to me, and from here it looks very much less so to you. Your facilities for rapid movements may have been so much improved, however, since I was with that army, that you may be able to accomplish the object in view. There is one serious objection to the move, or it looks so to me. If the enemy should slip in behind you and fortify strongly, both armies (yours and mine) will be obliged to disperse in the mountains and many of us perish, or surrender to the enemy without a fight. It may be that this would be sport to some people, but I confess that I should not enjoy it at all. However, the idea may be beyond my comprehension. I shall wait, therefore, for your opinions upon the matter.
     I remain, very truly and sincerely, your friend.


*See VOL. XXXII, Part III, p. 587. 

HEADQUARTERS, Greenville, East Tenn., March 5, 1864.
General J. E. JOHNSTON,
Commanding Army of Tennessee:
    GENERAL: I have received a verbal message from the President, through General Alexander, to confer with you upon the propriety and practicability of uniting our armies at or near Madisonville, East Tenn., with a view to a move into Middle Tennessee upon the enemy's line of communication. There are two routes from this to the point mentioned-one by passing south of Knoxville and the Holston River, the other by passing Knoxville on the north side, about 90 miles by either route. On the former I should cross six rivers; the first has a bridge, however. The road is a single dirt road, through a mountainous country, and the road passes within 15 miles of Knoxville, where the enemy has a stronger force than I, but it is very much if you can meet me promptly at Madisonville with subsistence stores and forage for my army. My transportation is so limited that I cannot take more than enough to supply us on the road. There is nothing in the country though which I would pass, or so little that we could place no reliance upon the country for supplies. The other route north of Knoxville, and I should be obliged to cross the Holston and the Tennessee Rivers. The latter stream would require a bridge, which I cannot haul; but if you can meet me there, so as to prevent forces from Chattanooga molesting my march, I can make a bridge and unite my forces with yours. I shall be obliged to depend upon you for food and forage when we are united.
    From here your difficulties look to me greater than mine, except that you will have the railroad to depend upon for supplies, and yet I cannot see that you can count upon that, unless your army is much stronger than I have supposed it to be, and the enemy's much weaker. I had estimated his forces at 40,000 available men.
     Please give the matter that mature deliberation which it merits, and give me your views at as early a moment as may be convenient.
     I remain, general, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,


P. S.-I take the liberty to address you directly,in order that the matter may not be known by more parties than necessary.

J. L.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 52, Part 2, Page 634.

Davis and Bragg wanted to unite Johnston's and Longstreet's commands for an offensive into Middle Tennessee.  Lee did not have a full understanding of the logistics involved, but was apprehensive there were not sufficient supplies for the movement.  If the operation offered no advantage, Lee wanted Longstreet returned to his command.  Longstreet preferred that his First Corp be reinforced and move into Kentucky to operate on Union lines of supply.  


Monday, April 28, 2014

March 4, 1864 (Friday): Dahlgren's Papers

Mill Ruins On Belle Island (365richmondva.wordpress.com)

March 4, 1864.
General S. COOPER,
Adjutant and Inspector-General:
    GENERAL: I have the honor to transmit the inclosed papers,* found upon the body of Colonel U. Dahlgren, of the U. S. Army, who was killed by a portion of my command, assisted by a portion of Colonel Robins' cavalry battalion and a detachment of the home guards of King and Queen, in that county, upon the night of the 2nd. These papers were sent by Lieutenant Pollard, commanding a detachment of the Ninth Virginia Cavalry, to Colonel Beale, and by him transmitted direct to me. They need no comment. Colonel Dahlgren commanded a force picket to co-operate with Brigadier-General Kilpatrick in his ridiculous and unsoldierly raid, and lost his life running off negroes after the failure of his insane attempt to destroy Richmond and kill Jeff. Davis and cabinet. The force of negroes and Yankees captured after his fall amount to about 140.
     Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

     FITZ. LEE,
     Major-General, Commanding.


[Sub-inclosure Numbers 1.] 

Officers and Men:
   You have been selected from brigades and regiments as a picked command to attempt a desperate undertaking--an undertaking which, it successful, will cause the prayers of our fellow-soldiers now confined in loathsome prisons to follow you and yours wherever you may go. We hope to release the prisoners form Belle Island first, and having seen them fairly started, we will cross the James River into Richmond, destroying the bridges after us and exhorting the released prisoners to destroy and burn the hateful city; and do not allow the rebel leader Davis and his traitorous crew to escape. The prisoners must render great assistance, as you cannot leave your ranks too far or become too much scattered, or you will be lost. Do not allow any personal gain to lead you off, which would only bring you to an ignominious death at the hands of citizens. Keep well together and obey orders strictly and all will be well; but on no account scatter too far, for in union there is strength. With strict obedience to orders and fearlessness in the execution you will be sure to succeed. We will join the main force on the other side of the city, or perhaps meet them inside. Many of you may fall; but if there is any man here not willing to sacrifice his life in such a great and glorious undertaking, or who does not feel capable of meeting the enemy in such a desperate fight as will follow. let him step out, and he may go hence to the arms of his sweetheart and read of the braves who swept through the city of Richmond. We want no man who cannot feel sure of success in such a holy cause. We will have a desperate fight, but stand up to it when it does come and all will be well. Ask the blessing of the Almighty and do not fear the enemy.

     Colonel, Commanding.

[Sub-inclosure Numbers 2.]
Guides, pioneers (with oakum, turpentine, and torpedoes), signal officer, quartermaster, commissary, scouts, and picket men in rebel uniform. Men will remain on the north bank and move down with the force on south bank, not getting ahead of them, and if the communication can be kept up without giving an alarm it must be done; but everything depends upon a surprise, and no one must be allowed to pass ahead of the column. Information must be gathered in regard to the crossing of the river, so that should we be repulsed on the south side we will know where to recross at the nearest point. All mills must be burned and the canal destroyed; and also everything which can be used by the rebels must be destroyed, including the boats on the river. Should a ferry-boat be seized and can be worked, have it moved down. Keep the force on the south side posted of any important movement of the enemy, and in case of danger some of the scouts must swim the river and bring us information. As we approach the city the party must take great care that they do not get ahead of the other party on the south side, and must conceal themselves and watch our movements. We will try and secure the bridge to the city, 1 mile below Belle Island, and release the prisoners at the same time. If we do not succeed they must then dash down, and we will try and carry the bridge from each side. When necessary, the men must be filed through the woods and along the river bank. The bridges once secured, and the prisoners loose and over the river, the bridges will be secured and the city destroyed. The men must keep together and well in hand, and once in the city it must be destroyed and Jeff. Davis and cabinet killed. Pioneers will go along with combustible material. The officer must use his discretion about the time of assisting us. Horse and cattle which we do not need immediately must be shot rather than left. Everything on the canal and elsewhere of service to the rebels must be destroyed. As General Custer may follow me, be careful not to give a false alarm.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 33, Part 1, Page 178-180, 217.

The controversy as to whether Dahlgren anticipated his force killing Davis and his cabinet was a source of immediate controversy.  Meade denied to Lee the letters were authentic, Kilpatrick vouched for everything in the address but the orders to kill Davis, and the Confederate authorities were outraged by the papers and sought to use them to gin up their own people while bringing the Union cause discredit abroad.  The controversy over the papers continues to the present, with no definitive answer as to whether the papers are in Dahlgren's hand.  Most experts believe they were, but argue over whether he had any authorization further up the command structure for them.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

March 3, 1864 (Thursday): Kilpatrick Raid Brought To A Halt

King and Queen Court House (kingandqueenmuseum.org)

Major General A. PLEASONTON,
Commanding Cavalry Corps:
    I have reached General Butler's lines with my command in good order. I have failed to accomplish the great object of the expedition, but have destroyed the enemy's communications at various points on the Virginia Central Railroad; also the canal and mills along the James River, and much other valuable property. Drove the enemy into and through his fortifications to the suburbs of Richmond; made several unsuccessful efforts to return to the Army of the Potomac. I have lost less than 150 men. The entire command is in good order, and needs but a few days' rest. I respectfully ask for instructions.

     Brigadier-General, Commanding Expedition.

In view of the failure of General Kilpatrick to return to this command by land, I respectfully urge that transportation be sent immediately from Alexandria to transport it by water, as his command is composed of picket troops from all the divisions of the corps, and the organization and effectiveness of the remaining divisions is seriously impaired by the absence of so large a number.
      Very respectfully,

     Major-General, Commanding.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 33, Part 1, Page 182.

Having advanced without sight of the spires of Richmond, Kilpatrick's raid could not be counted as a failure, but then again it did not succeed in its objectives.  Kilpatrick was unaware at this time that Dahlgren had fallen into an ambush with about 80 of his men at King and Queen Court House and had been killed in combat.  About the raid much more would be said and argued, even many years into the future, as Dahlgren was found to carry an address which called for his men to kill Davis and his cabinet. 

March 2, 1864 (Wednesday): Dahlgren's Raid Breaks Down

Mechanicsville Turnpike Bridge, Near Richmond

March 2, 1864.
    LIEUTENANT: I have the pleasure to announce the escape of Lieutenant-Colonel Jones and Captain Watson. They effected their escape night before last between the hours of 9 and 11 o'clock. the enemy were then across South Anna River, having crossed at Turkey Creek Ford. Colonel Jones estimated the column at 1,500. Colonel Dahlgren, commanding, stated he had 2,000. Besides this column another one crossed the railroad at Beaver Dam (where everything was destroyed), numbering between 2,000 and 3,000 men, and believed to be under Kilpatrick. It has four pieces of artillery. The column passing here had no artillery. Both columns said their destination was Richmond.
    Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

    A. L. LONG,
    Brigadier-General, Commanding.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 33, Part 1, Page 211.

Dahlgren's force had been delayed by the lack of a suitable fording spot.  In the confusion pursuant to these activities, Colonel Jones and Captain Watson of the court-martial party who had been captured the day before made their escape.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

March 1, 1864 (Tuesday): Long Checks Kilpatrick

Defenses of Richmond

March 1, 1864.
    GENERAL: Yesterday about 12 m. the enemy were reported advancing in considerable force upon my position. I immediately placed my artillery in position to resist cavalry. With the assistance of 120 sharpshooters I was in hopes of being able to repel any attack that might be made. The enemy, about 1,000 or 1,500 strong, advanced to within half a mile of my advanced camp, but finding a force in front of them, changed their direction to the left, taking farm roads toward Bumpass Station. They struck the railroad about 3 miles below me, above Bumpass. They hastily tore up a few rails and passed on in the direction of Cartersville. Their whole movement about me was masked by the thick timber by which we are surrounded, and although they were very close to me, I could not find and opportunity of doing them any damage.
    Later in the day I received reports that another and large force was advancing (which I think, from the report of a prisoner taken by my scout, may have been Kilpatrick moving toward Hanover Junction), and as the first force was moving toward my rear, I was induced to ask for a re-enforcement of one or two regiments of infantry, which force reached me last night. I sent out parties to follow and watch the movements of the enemy. They were pursued as far as the Red House on the mountain road to Richmond. At dark they were moving rapidly in that direction.
    I regret to inform you that all the members of the court-martial of this command, who were in session, were captured. A vacant house some distance from camp had been selected for the meeting of the court, and the movement of the enemy was so sudden there was not time to notify the court of their approach. The following officers were captured: Lieutenant-Colonel Jones, Captains Page, Watson, and Dement, Lieutenants Blair and Deas; probably Lieutenants Lambie and Walthall. Several enlisted men were also captured, but were released after being carried some distance.
     I notified General Elzey and the commanding officer at Hanover Junction yesterday of the enemy's movements, and I hope they may be able to intercept them. I greatly felt the want of a few hundred infantry. With these I am sure I could have inflicted a severe chastisement upon them. The nature of the country would have greatly assisted me. My sharpshooters were too few, and I had too much at stake to hazard any movement against them.
     I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

     A. L. LONG,
     Brigadier-General, Commanding.

Long and a scratch force with six cannons had slowed Kilpatrick outside the defenses of Richmond.  Dahlgren was in the vicinity of Goochland, trying to locate a ford by which to cross over and come up on Richmond from the South.  It would appear Kilpatrick lost his nerve at the check by Long.  He headed east and recrossed the Chickahominy in the vacinity of Mechanicsville.  There he waited near Cold Harbor, skirmishing and waiting to link up with Dahlgren.  The location of Long's encounter with Kilpatrick is now the intersection of Brook Road and Laburnum Avenue in Richmond.

Friday, April 25, 2014

February 29, 1864 (Monday): Stuart Moves to Meet Kilpatrick's Raid

Colonel Ulric Dahlgren

ORANGE COURT-HOUSE, February 29, 1864.
SECRETARY OF WAR, Richmond, Va.:
    Enemy's cavalry near Charlottesville. If two or three regiments or a brigade can be spared they had better be sent at once to Lynchburg.

     R. E. LEE.


General BRAXTON BRAGG, Richmond, Va.:
GENERAL: I send a telegram received from General Lee. you can best judge what force, if any be disposable, to send to Lynchburg. Perhaps a regiment or two may be available at Petersburg.
    Very truly, yours,

    J. A. SEDDON,
    Secretary of War.

ORANGE COURT-HOUSE, February 29, 1864.
Major R. F. MASON:
    If the enemy should advance in the direction of Charlottesville take command of all the mounted men detailed or furloughed at or near Charlottesville. At last advices enemy was at Madison Court-House.

    J. E. B. STUART,

ORANGE [February] 29, 1864.
(Received 6 p. m.)
Major MASON:
    I am moving to your support. Save the artillery and wagons if possible; infantry coming to your assistance. Communicate with Rosser, who is moving to help you.

     J. E. B. STUART,

LOUISA COURT-HOUSE, February 29, 1864.
General S. COOPER,
Adjutant and Inspector General:
    A scout reports to General Long at Frederick's Hall, the enemy's cavalry, say 1,000 strong, moving toward Richmond on the main road from Louisa Court-House, about thirty-five miles from Richmond, at perhaps 5 p. m.

     Brigadier-General and Chief of Artillery.

LOUISA COURT-HOUSE, February 29, 1864.
General S. COOPER,
Adjutant and Inspector General:
     GENERAL: The enemy on a raid near Frederick's Hall. General Long there with artillery. Second Corps has no infantry. I have informed General Lee. Can troops go up form Hanover Junction?     Anything done shall be prompt. The down train returnd to Gordonsville.

      W. N. PENDLETON,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 51, Page 2, Pages 823-824.

By late in the day it was obvious Kilpatrick was moving on Richmond.  Finding troops behind the lines to move to block the raid was difficult.  The best plan was to form up at Hanover Junction, but the Union cavalry had the inside track.


February 28, 1864 (Sunday): The Raid Commences

General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick

February 28, 1864.
Major-General WARREN,
Commanding Second Corps:
    The major-general commanding directs me to inform you that General Kilpatrick will move to-night, cross the Rapidan at the lower fords, and turning the enemy's right flank operate in his rear. He will be absent several days. He will withdraw all the supports and reserves of his picket-line, but will leave his pickets.
     The inclosed telegram,* just received, showing a brigade of enemy's cavalry at Morton's Ford, will require more than usual vigilance on the part of your infantry brigade near there.

     Major-General, Chief of Staff.

*Not found. 

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 33, Part 1, Page 608-609.

Kilpatrick's raid was underway.  Hugh Judson Kilpatrick was an 1861 graduate of West Point, 17th of 45.  He was wounded at the early battle of Big Bethel and had fought in practically every major engagement the Union cavalry had been involved with in the east.  Eventually he would be sent west at the request of Sherman, who is quoted as saying, "I know Kilpatrick is a hell of a d***ed fool, but I want just that sort of man to command my cavalry on this expedition."  The raid he was about to begin with Dahlgren would remain his claim to fame.  His nickname, "Kill Cavalry" was a testament to his wreckless, and often ill considered conduct in action.  He no doubt inspired an aggression in his men, but was likely too young for the command he held and unsuited for the responsibilities he carried.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

February 27, 1864 (Sunday): Preparing for a Raid

General A. A. Humphreys

February 27, 1864. - 2 p. m. (Received 2. 20 p. m.)
Major-General FRENCH,
Commanding Third Corps:
    The major-general commanding directs that Major-General Birney move with his division early to-morrow morning, the 28th instant, and take position that evening in the vicinity of James City. he will communicate with Major-General Sedgwick, commanding Sixth Corps,which is ordered to take post at Madison Court-House on the evening of the 28th instant, and will co-operate with and support that corps, upon being required to do so by its commanding general. General Sedgwick may find it necessary to move forward from Madison Court-House to cover the operations of a cavalry force in the direction of Charlottesville, in which case he will communicate with General Birney and require him to move toward, or to, or beyond Madison Court-House. A signal officer will be posted by General Sedgwick upon Throughfare Mountain, through whom he will communicate with these headquarters by signal from Madison Court-House. Should the signal officer require additional protection, General Birney will furnish it. He will communicate everything, of importance that occurs to these headquarters through the usual channel, using both signal and courier. Upon being notified by General Sedgwick that the objects of the expedition have been accomplished, General Birney, will return to his present camp. The usual picket-line will be maintained during the absence of this division. Birney for his guidance.

      A. A. HUMPHREYS.
     Major-General and Chief of Staff.

Official Records, Series I.,Vol. 33, Part 1, Page 605.

The Union cavalry was increasingly able to assert itself as the war progressed. Here the infantry in Northern Virginia is preparing to support a raid.  Humphreys was an interesting character, being described as having a brilliant gift for profanity.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

February 26, 1864 (Saturday): Foster Plans A Move On Raleigh

State Capital, Raleigh, 1861

BALTIMORE, MD., February 26, 1864.
Major General H. W. HALLECK:
General-in-Chief U. S. Army, Washington, D. C.:
    GENERAL: In a conversation with Grant at Nashville, Tenn., on the 12th instant, reference was made to a project of an operation from the Eastern sea-board, to aid, by co-operation, the contemplated movements in Alabama and Georgia. He desired, as I understood him, to have a column of 60,000 men move on Raleigh, by the way of Weldon, and thence to co-operate with the Armies of the Ohio and of the Cumberland. I have though of the project since, as I had in fact, often before, while in command in North Carolina and Virginia, and beg leave, respectfully, to present the following plan, which will, I think, meet General Grant's wishes, and also attain some other important objects:
    I would respectfully propose that the force be collected in the vicinity of Hampton Roads, in such a way as to excite the least suspicion of its real object; that the artillery and infantry be moved by transports to Fort Powhatan, on the James River, landed at that point and the one opposite, on the north bank of the river, and a portion of the force put to work to intrench those points, so as to be
held against attacking force, while, the remainder be rapidly prepared for marching, the whole cavalry force to move at the same time quickly from Williamsburg to Bottom's Bridge, and make a dash on Richmond. Failing in this, to attack the enemy in rear at Malvern Hill or at Charles City Court-House, whichever place may be their point of concentration to meet our threatened advance in force; and then to cross the James River at Fort Powhatan by means of the steam ferry-boats, to be prepared at that point, and make a dash on Petersburg, the Petersburg and Weldon, and the Petersburg and Lynchburg Railroads. Succeeding or failing in this, to fall back toward Weldon, by the county roads, on the flanks of the main column, which, by this time, should be in full march for Weldon, destroying all bridges in their rear. Arrived at Weldon to assault the works at once, and failing in this, to settle down into a determined attack, opening the Seaboard and Roanoke Railroad for supplies from Norfolk, and calling up the North Carolina force from Plymouth to act on the rear of the enemy at Weldon. After taking Weldon, to destroy the bridges at that place and at Gaston, and to sweep through the State threatening Goldsborough and Raleigh, and really only occupying Raleigh with the cavalry, while the main column moves directly for Wilmington as rapidly as possible, living on the country. All the railroad and other bridges are to be destroyed on the march. Reaching Wilmington, to attack that town in such a way as to succeed, opening at the same time a landing for a base of supplies at Masonborough Inlet. Capturing Wilmington all the defenses on the river and at its mouth are sure to fall in succession. This line of advance on Wilmington is the only one that offers decided chances for success, inasmuch as it entirely cuts off all re-enforcements from Virginia, and, if the cavalry succeeds in cutting the Wilmington and Manchester road, from Charleston also. It avoids the delays in crossing the White Oak and New Rivers of a column moving from Morehead City; at the same time it shuts off the troops that might, in the mean time, be poured into Wilmington by the two railroads mentioned above.
     The reasons that I prefer the route by the way of the James River to that by the line of the Seaboard and Roanoke Railroad to Weldon are that it avoids the delays consequent upon forcing the passage of the Blackwater, the Nottoway, and the Meherin Rivers, and of rebuilding the bridges over those streams, which the enemy will be sure to burn to retard the march of our forces, and that the route by Fort Powhatan and Prince George Court-House to Weldon turns those rivers is likely to insure the capture of the troops stationed along them to defend their crossings and the salvation of the bridges; also, that this way of coming down on Weldon cuts off the re-enforcements from Virginia, which might otherwise be thrown into Weldon by rail.
     The reason that the main column should be hurried directly through North Carolina without waiting to occupy Raleigh in force is that it saves precious time in getting at Wilmington. At the same time the direct route lies nearer the bases of supply in North Carolina, viz, Plymouth, Washington, and New Berne.
     The strength of the expedition should be fully equal to that estimated by General Grant, viz, 60,000 men, to insure the success of the movement, which covers a very long march, and must of necessity involve severe fighting, entailing considerable losses from deaths, wounds, sickness, and straggling.
    I am confident that such an expedition of the above strength can succeed in all the points that I have described above, provided it be conducted with proper skill and determination.
    A lesser force could not make sure of Weldon, upon the attainment of which everything depends. It could, however, operate up the James River, as a large water bayou, fortifying point after point in succession and, at last lay siege to Petersburg with good chances of success. Such a move would be important in view of the effect it would produce on the enemy at Richmond and on the Rapidan, but otherwise of very little value.
    The above is respectfully submitted with the hope that it may meet the approval of the General-in-Chief.
    I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

    J. G. FOSTER,
    Major-General of Volunteers

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 33, Part 1, Pages 602-604.

Weldon, the key to Foster's plan, was an obscure railroad junction.  To possess it was to be threaten Petersburg.  While an approach from the east was desirable it was not practical.  There were not 60,000 troops available for the execution of the plan and the approaches were through marshland leading across country toward New Berne.

February 25, 1864 (Friday): Checking On Sherman

General Stephen D. Lee

Starkville, Miss., February 25, 1864.
Brigadier General W. H. JACKSON,
Commanding, &c.:
   GENERAL: General Lee's headquarters will, for the present, be at Macon. He directs that you will at once establish a courier-line, consisting of three at a post, from your headquarters to Newtonville, near the line of Attala and Winston Counties, there to connect with General Forrest's line to Macon. During the general's absence you will assume command of Brigadier-General Ferguson's division, as well as of your own. He wishes you to take immediate steps for collecting all stragglers from your command and restoring them to duty.
    I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

    Assistant Adjutant and Inspector General.

P. S.-The general wishes you to send scouts above, as well as below, Vicksburg for the purpose of ascertaining and reporting in which direction General Sherman's army is sent.
     Very respectfully,

     Assistant Adjutant and Inspector General.

Official Records, Series I., Vol.52, Part 2, Page 630.

Sherman had been sent to assist in Bank's Red River Valley expedition, but since the rivers were too low to allow for naval support, he decided to reenforce Vicksburg and central Mississippi.  Davis knew the potential threat Sherman's army created, and wanted it attacked.  Part of the problem was knowing exactly where Sherman was headed, since he could not be attacked in his well supplied and supported position in Vicksburg.  Stephen D. Lee's cavalry was employed to try and gain additional information on Sherman's movements.  The letter here is interesting also in its description of how courier lines were established.


February 24, 1864 (Thursday): Discontent in North Carolina

Davidson County Courthouse, Lexington NC

Richmond, Va., February 24, 1864.
* * * *
XIII. Major General G. E. Pickett will immediately dispatch to Lexington, N. C., a sufficient force to repress the mob and to protect the public property at that place.
* * * *
By command of the Secretary of War:

 Assistant Adjutant-General. 

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 33, Part 1, Page 1196.

Riots and public protests in the South usually revolved around the lack of food or enforcement of conscription.  Opposition to the war was strong in western North Carolina, Lexington being at the edge of that region.  There had been protests in nearby Asheboro over the arrest of draft dodgers and it is likely the incidents described here were a continuation of those events.

Monday, April 21, 2014

February 23, 1864 (Wednesday): To Destroy Sherman

General Joseph Eggleston Johnston

RICHMOND, VA., February 23, 1864.
General J. E. JOHNSTON,
Dalton, Ga.:
     Your troops of this day received.+ General Beauregard has not sent troops to General Polk. He was called on to re-enforce you, and has indicated necessity for some delay. The re-enforcement you were called on to send General Polk was for immediate service. Promptitude, I have to repeat, is essential. To hesitate is to fail. General Longstreet quotes you as authority for the statement that the enemy is re-enforcing Knoxville from Chattanooga; if so, the demonstration in your front is probably a mask. To destroy Sherman will be the most immediate and important method of relieving you, and best secures the future supply of your army. Speedy success in Mississippi restores the forces you detached, and adds others to enable you to follow up the advantage.


RICHMOND, VA., February 23, 1864.
General J. E. JOHNSTON,
Dalton, Ga.:
     Information just received from General Polk indicates that the re-enforcements you were directed to send him are too late. Recall those which have not passed Montgomery.


+See VOL. XXXII, Part II, p. 798. 

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 52, Part 2, Page 627.

On the 14th Sherman had entered Meridian.  Polk's infantry divisions under Loring and French moved into North Alabama.  After several days of skirmishes, Sherman withdrew to central Mississippi.  Davis wanted Johnston to act promptly, with the intent of destroying Sherman's detached force.  But alacrity was not an attribute Johnston possessed.

February 22, 1864 (Tuesday): Battle at Olustee

CHARLESTON, S. C., February 22, 1864.
Major General W. H. C. WHITING,
Wilmington, N. C.:
    General Finegan met enemy at or near Olustee, Fla., on 20th instant, in full force under Seymour, and defeated him with heavy loss. We have field of battle, enemy's killed and wounded, five pieces of artillery, large number of small-arms and prisoners, and our cavalry is pursuing. Our loss about 250 officers and men killed and wounded.

(Same sent to General Mackall, chief of staff, Dalton, Ga., and Major General D. H. Maury, Mobile, Ala.)

CHARLESTON, S. C., February 22, 1864.
Brigadier General R. S. RIPLEY,
Mount Pleasant:
     Finegan has defeated Seymour of Olustee, Fla., with heavy loss to enemy; possession of field of battle, five pieces of artillery, large number of small-arms, and prisoners and the enemy's killed and wounded. Our cavalry pursuing with vigor.

     Chief of Staff.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 35, Part 1, Page 633.

Seymour had landed at Jacksonville and worked his way inland 20miles to Baldwin where he was met on the 9th by Gillmore.  On the 20th Henrys cavalry brigade made contact and drove Confederate outposts back to their main body, under Finnegan.  The 7th New Hampshire was hit while deploying and routed.  The 8th Infantry of the US African-American Infantry also broke and fled.  Finally the 54th Massachusetts held until dark.  Seymour then withdrew having lost a third of his force in killed, wounded, and missing. 

February 21, 1864 (Monday): Skirmish at Upperville

Upperville Battlefield (civilwaralbum.com, Richard Edling).

FEBRUARY 21, 1864.
    MAJOR: I have the honor to report that about 8 o'clock yesterday morning, on being informed that a large body of the enemy's cavalry were in Upperville, I took immediate steps to be prepared to meet them. The enemy proceeded some distance along the pike toward Piedmont, when they started back. I did all in my power to retard my men time to collect. After getting between 50 and 60 together i attacked them about 12 miles beyond Upperville. A sharp skirmish ensued, in which we repulsed them in three distinct charges and drove their sharpshooters from a very strong position behind a stone wall. They fled in the direction of Harper's Ferry. We pursued them about 2 miles. They were enabled to cover their retreat by means of their numerous carbineers posted behind stone fences. As my men had nothing but pistols, with only a few exceptions, I was compelled to make flank movements in order to dislodge them, which, of course, checked a vigorous pursuit. Citizens who counted the enemy inform me that they numbered 250 men, under command of Major Cole. They left 6 of their dead on the field, among them 1 captain, 1 lieutenant, and 7 men prisoners; also, horses, army equipments, &c. The road over which they retreated was strewn with abandoned hats, haversacks, &c. They left 6 of their dead on the field, among them 1 captain, 1 lieutenant, and 7 men prisoners; also, horses, army equipments, &c. The road over which they retreated was strewn with abandoned hats, haversacks, 7c. They impressed wagons to carry off their wounded.
      While all acted well, with but few exceptions, it is a source of great pride to bring to your notice the names of some whose conspicuous gallantry renders their mention both a duty and a pleasure. They are Captain and Lieutenant Chapman, Lieutenants Fox, Richards, Sergeants Palmer, Lavender, and Privates Munson, Edmons, Montjoy, Starke, and Cunningham. My loss was 2 wounded.
     Respectfully, your obedient servant,

    JNO. S. MOSBY,
    Lieutenant-Colonel, Commanding.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 33, Part 1, Page 157.

Mosby assembled his men on short notice and was a constant threat to Union detachments.  He was also a studious chronicler of his unit's accomplishments.  His fame is largely out of proportion to his impact of the war, but no one can dispute that his adventures were the stuff of good fiction and better history. 

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 33, Part 1, Page 157.

February 20, 1864 (Sunday): Disloyal Paw Paws

Messrs. W. T. REYNOLDS and others,
Liberty, Mo.:
    GENTLEMAN: Your letter of February 20, 1864, inclosing copy of one dated December 26th, ultimo, addressed to the department commander, are received and the matters therein set forth have been carefully considered. While I appreciate the feelings and sentiments of loyalty which animate you, and assure you they shall receive all the attention and respect to which they are entitled, I must urge upon you and all unconditional men such wise and considerate policy toward all who are willing to obey the laws that none can fail of protection who act properly. The enemies of our country and local peace and quiet endeavor to damage the national cause and to keep the country in continual hot water by stirring up ill-blood between you and those who with a little care, watching, and kind, but firm, treatment will do well and return to industry and practical citizenship.
     I also request you to furnish names and facts going to prove the "Paw Paws" disloyal and only willing to protect their own homes against robbers, while they would do nothing against the common enemies of our nation and State. If these suggestions are carried out in a spirit of magnanimity and justice, it will greatly aid me in my endeavors to attain the object of your wishes. I want also assurance from you that the aspirates and hatreds engendered against rebels and rebel sympathizers shall not be carried to disturb the peace, as the "Paw Paw" advocates say they will be if they are left to the mercies of our embittered Union men.
     While we must hold all former rebels and their sympathizers bound to respect the laws and feelings of loyal men, we ought to leave those who behave rightfully in peace, notwithstanding their former conduct may have been hostile to the Government. All we ought to ask of them is sincere repentance and modest reserve.
     I am, gentlemen, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

    Major-General, Commanding.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 34, Part 2, Page 428.

The "Paw Paws" were local militia, largely composed of civilians who were pro-Confederate early in the war.  Unionists in Missouri referred to them as paw paws because the paw paw grew  in the bushes and they regarded these men as bushwackers.  Rosecrans was a gentleman and disinclined to suspect the worst, but in this case he would have been justified.

February 19, 1864 (Saturday): The Olustee Campaign Commences

James Island Fortifications (digital.tcl.sc.edu)

February 19, 1864-11.30 p. m.
Richmond, Va.:
     Telegram received. Have less than 15,000 effective infantry in whole department, of which 7,000 are left in South Carolina (5,000 on James' and Sullivan's Islands, Fort Sumter, and Charleston), and
950 around Savannah. Remainder in or en route for Florida to meet serious movements of enemy toward interior with heave force of infantry, artillery, and mounted infantry, reported to-day 10,000 strong, threatening to destroy the vitally valuable supplies of that State, and to meet which I am concentrating there every man that can be spared without imminent risk for this State or Georgia, and propose to go there in person at an early moment. We must do this or lose the State, the value of which the enemy appear now to perceive. I am hopeful of early and signal results in time to be free to give opportune aid elsewhere.

      General, Commanding.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 32, Part 2, Page 733.

Truman Seymour's Division of the 10th Corp was on it's way to Florida.  Beauregard had been successful in holding Charleston, but his continued ability to do so was threatened by any move to the South in Florida.  As the war continued the Confederate ability to shift forces to meet threats in multiple areas was even less (and never was strong to begin with). 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

February 18, 1864 (Thursday): Increasing Troops In The Field

The Aquaduct Bridge at Washington

New York City, February 18, 1864.
Major General H. W. HALLECK,
    GENERAL: All our information from the South indicates that he leaders of the rebellion are making the most desperate efforts to bring into the field every man capable of bearing arms at the opening of the campaign in the spring. The rapid increase of our debt, bringing with it the dangers to which the public credit is always exposed under the pressure of heavy expenditures, the long continuance of the war, and the importance of terminating it as soon as possible render it incumbent on us to put forth all our strength as soon as military operations can be resumed. I suppose we must have a very large force in forts and entrenchments, including the city of Washington, and this force out of active employment must be considerably augmented by troops in the interior of the loyal States-like those, for instance, guarding prisoners at Johnson's Island.
     It has occurred to me that all these troops might be relieved by the local militia of the loyal States,  and that thus a strong addition might be made to our active force.
     I have no doubt that a great number of regiments would volunteer during the spring and summer for service at Baltimore, in the entrenchments at Washington, and in all the forts in all our harbors. I think at least ten regiments could be obtained in this State for such a service, and that the other loyal States would contribute as liberally.
     It is hardly to be expected that the President's order for a draft will bring out the number of men called for, and in any event the measure proposed could hardly be otherwise than salutary.
    I have taken the liberty of making this suggestion, with the assurance that if the plan could be carried out an overwhelming force might be thrown upon the enemy and the war brought to a successful conclusion during the year 1864.
     The great stake the country has in such a speedy issue of the conflict will, I am sure, be regarded as a sufficient apology for calling your attention to the subject.
     I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

     JOHN A. DIX,

Official Records, Series III., Vol. 4, Part 1, Page 121.

Dix makes a point too little appreciated in histories of the conflict.  Debt levels in the North were reaching critical points in 1864.  In addition, there was a war weariness which had to be accounted for in an election year.  Dix felt it was critical to press the issue rather than allow the war to continue and wanted to supplement Union forces in the field by taking veteran troops out of the defenses of Washington and replace them with state militias.  Dix does not mention, but it is worth stating, the Union had another method to get more men into the field, the utilization of African-American troops.  At this juncture of the war they represented a weight for which the Confederacy had no counterbalance.

February 17, 1864 (Wednesday): Davis Looks West

The Confederate White House, Richmond

RICHMOND, VA., February 17, 1864.
General J. E. JOHNSTON,
Dalton, Ga.:
    The information received satisfies me that you should re-enforce General Polk. You will therefore detach General Hardee with the infantry of his corps, except Stevenson's division, and direct him to proceed with all possible dispatch to unite with General Polk, as may be indicated by the movements of the enemy. The quartermasters along the route should make all practicable preparations to facilitate the movement. It is hoped and expected that these troops will be returned to you before your present linecan be seriously endangered. You will realize the propriety of preventing as far as possible publicity being given to this movement.


Official Records, Series I., Vol. 52, Part 2, Page 621.

The war in the west was not going well for the Confederacy.  Having moved their supply lines eastward the Union could hold forces in central positions and threaten the Confederates at multiple points.  This letter from Davis shows how involved the President was in managing the war.

February 16, 1864 (Tuesday): Pacific Duty

Fort Vancouver, Wash. Ter., February 16, 1864.
Captain W. H. JORDAN,
Ninth Infantry, U. S. Army, Present:
    CAPTAIN: The general commanding the district directs you to see Captain G. H. Elliot, of Engineers, in charge of the construction of the fortifications at the mouth of the Columbia, and with him visit the works at Cape Disappointment and also at Point Adams. You will procure all the information you can from him which will be useful to you in command of said fortifications. You will be careful to consult him as to the proper site at which quarters for the troops should be built at both fortifications. You will be prepared on your return to instruct your acting assistant quartermaster making estimates to be forwarded to Lieutenant Colonel E. B. Babbitt, deputy quartermaster-general, of the necessary funds to build temporary quarters for your company.
     By order of Brigadier-General Alvord.
     I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

     J. W. HOPKINS,
     First Lieutenant, First Oregon Cavalry, Actg. Asst. Adjt. General

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 50, Part 2, Page 755. 

During the Civil War duty on the Pacific coast was uneventful, but fortifications (such as Fort Stevens on the Columbia River) continued to the extent funds could be made available.  These fortifications were largely obsolete within 50 years of their construction, but at the time they were considered a vital security measure.

February 15, 1864 (Monday): The Great Escape

FEBRUARY 15, 1864.
Brigadier-General WISTAR,
    Richmond papers of 12th, received, say 109 prisoners escaped, and that 25 were captured, none less than 20 miles from Richmond. All of them must have crossed the Chickahominy. Have you anything further in regard to them? Many of them must still be secreted in the woods.

    J. W. SHAFFER,
    Colonel and Chief of Staff.

YORKTOWN, February 15, 1864.
Colonel J. W. SHAFFER,
Chief of Staff:
    Probably none of these prisoners recaptured had crossed the Chickahominy. Robertson's cavalry and Holcombe's Legion cavalry are both the other side of Chickahominy for that purpose, besides the infantry. There is no enemy this side, except Hume's scouts, who keep off the main roads and know every path. My cavalry is out after the prisoners, and has been since the first came in. It must go by detachments, of course, having to come back for forage, of which the country supplies none. If one-fourth the escaped organized and long-prepared plan to prevent it. Fifteen have already come.

    I. J. WISTAR,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 33, Part 1, Page 566.

Libby Prison was, after Andersonville, the most notorious southern prison.  Holding only officers, on February 5, 1864 it was the site of a massive prison break with 109 men escaping through a tunnel they dug through the prison walls.  Although Colonel Thomas E. Rose, the leader of the escape, was captured 59 of the escapees did make it back through the lines.  It was a blow to Confederate morale and the rebels were so afraid of Rose's influence they quickly exchanged him and he returned to service in the 77th Pennsylvania.